In her classical literary work, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë contemplates the topic of love and its importance in each person’s life by portraying the consequences that arise when somebody lacks it. The story continues attracting readers’ attention, as, without exaggeration, it covers an exceedingly crucial issue for contemporary citizens, considering current social and political unrest in the world. Although the author solely describes the difficult relations within and between two English families, she nevertheless manages to elaborate on certain patterns of human sentiments that are universal and relevant to broader groups of people. Brontë’s genius revealed itself through a skillful combination of gothic fiction and romanticism, which allowed the author to depict love – normally considered as something pure – within complex and cruel social reality. On the surface, this blend of styles causes the feeling of pessimism towards human nature and love in readers. However, a deeper analysis reveals that the writer seeks to reinstate the trust in humanity and especially in the concept of love but insists that the latter should be dealt with carefully to bring goodness.
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Brontë (2020) chooses to emphasize the importance of love by displaying how the lack of it can induce the dramatic chain reaction effect that will only resolve at the end of the story. Moreover, the author illustrates the opposite instances when one should trust their hearts and when one should not. Such a realism of controversial facts is intended to pass the wisdom that applies to real life and seeks to prevent the reader from repeating mistakes similar to the characters in the book.
Favoritism’s Bad Impact
The first lesson that Brontë (2020) tries to convey is related to the idea that love should be equally granted to all family members without exceptions. Ellen Dean’s story that she told to the narrator begins with Heathcliff’s appearance in the Earnshaw family as a baby. Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw, who already had two kids – Catherine and Hindley – decide to adopt him. However, as children grow up, it becomes obvious that the father of the family has a stronger affection towards Heathcliff than to Hindley, causing the latter to become jealous and start hating the former. The scientific literature as well presents strong evidence for the negative consequences of either parents’ preference towards one child over another. Stocker et al. (2020) assert the positive relationship between parental favoritism towards one of the siblings and the feeling of depression, anxiety, hostility, and loneliness of the other one. However, neither of that would have happened if Mr. Earnshaw provided the same amount of love for all the children.
Secondly, the author emphasizes that the lack of love from a person’s surroundings can cause him to become a bad person. Human beings are prone to social influence, and any attitude towards an individual from others would be crucial for his character formation (Baumeister & Bushman, 2020). After the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Catherine was the only person who loved Heathcliff, whereas others despised or hated him. Hindley often physically and psychologically assaulted him, Edgar laughed at his appearance. That had a tremendous impact on Heathcliff and further formed his twisted character, and he started wishing for revenge. Eventually he would begin wishing to torture others and enjoy sufferings of the people that are close to him. His life motto, therefore, represented by following words: “…you are welcome to torture me to death for your amusement, only allow me to amuse myself a little in the same style” (Brontë, 2020, p. 157). Thus, it is evident that the further abusive relations that Heathcliff had with people around him were strongly affected by a lack of love and care from his peers.
Money vs. Love
The third lesson that the author transmits: when one faces a dilemma between true love and social status and norms, he/she should choose the former. Catherine’s example best proves that statement as she chose to marry Edgar Linton due to his wealth instead of marrying Heathcliff, whom she strongly and faithfully loved. The further development of the story revealed the utmost significance of such a decision to further tragic circumstances. Losing the last person that loved him, Heathcliff finally cements his life philosophy. He constantly intervenes in the married couple’s life, causing the latter to exist in a state of misery. Finally, that continuous struggle of choice between two men representing two sides of the life leads to Catherine’s death (Schakenraad, 2016). If contrary, she chose to be with Heathcliff from the beginning, she would most probably be happy and her loved one would not become a devil.
Breaking the Vicious Circle
Finally, the vicious circle of hatred can only be won by love, not hatred. Cathy Linton’s life is a colorful example of it. She is the only character in the story, apart from Ellen, who can be called a positive hero and serves as the opposite to others, especially Heathcliff. Even though she also experienced the life of hatred living in Wuthering Heights and was influenced by it, she could discover the love in her heart. The character of Cathy serves Brontë (2020) as an exception from the second lesson mentioned above. Indeed, some people possess inner strength and can overpower external circumstances. That is the reason why the novel should not be considered as pessimistic but, on the contrary, optimistic. Through Cathy, the author wanted to reach all the readers who faced similar situations as the book’s characters. Brontë (2020) attempts to motivate those surrounded by hatred or who feel a lack of love to change that situation if they discover love within. Therefore, it is important that each person at least occasionally thinks how he/she can provide more affection and care for the people around him/her to make the life of everyone at least a bit better.
In summary, the lessons above clearly demonstrate that love is the central topic of Wuthering Heights novel. The author attempts to guide the reader from the darkness of hatred caused by the lack of love towards the light through love. The examples of Hindley, who did not feel his father’s love, and Heathcliff, who was despised, hated, and abused, serve as lessons for readers to be more attentive to people who are close to them. Love cannot be traded for wealth or social status as it is, in the author’s opinion, the road to suffer and tragic end as in the case of Catherine. On the other hand, Cathy’s dedication to love allowed her and all the house members to become happy finally. On the philosophical level, she defeated Heathcliff with her kind heart as the latter lost his taste for hate and revenge, seeing Cathy and Hareton happy together.
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Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2020). Social psychology and human nature. Cengage Learning.
Brontë, E. (2020). Wuthering heights. Oxford University Press.
Schakenraad, J. (2016). The matter of fouls: Philosophical aspects of Wuthering Heights. Brontë Studies, 41(4), 340-349.
Stocker, C. M., Gilligan, M., Klopack, E. T., Conger, K. J., Lanthier, R. P., Neppl, T. K., O’Neal, C.W & Wickrama, K. A. S. (2020). Sibling relationships in older adulthood: Links with loneliness and well-being. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(2), 175.